TCFF Day 4: Secretariat, Flourtown, Nature of Existence

TCFF day 4 has come and went, and we’re about to close the 5-day film festival with FAIR GAME later tonight. Executive Producer Bill Pohlad will be on-hand at this red carpet event to introduce the movie at 7pm. Do you have your tickets yet? The online ticket sales is closed right now, but you may still purchase tickets at the box office before the show using cash or check.

I volunteered again all afternoon yesterday, doing various tasks such as passing out schedules at the ticket booth, tearing out tickets of people going into the screening, and handing out rush tickets (or stand-by tickets) of Secretariat to people who might be interested. It’s kind of expected that people are cautious about strangers handing out stuff in a public area, you practically see ’em as they walk toward you. The best you can do is put on the best smile you can muster and try to use the word ‘free’ or ‘complimentary’ in there somewhere 😀 A mother & daughter were actually looking to see a movie and had been interested to see Secretariat, so their eyes lit up when we gave each of them a rush ticket. That really made the whole thing worthwhile.

One of the two main features of Day 4 is The Nature of Existence, directed by Minnesota’s own filmmaker Roger Nygard, who did TREKKIES back in 1997. This time he took on a more spiritual/metaphysical quest by traveling the globe to interview various people and start by asking the biggest question: “why do we exist?” After a four-year world-wide odyssey beginning in 2005, he had over 450 hours of footage to boil down to an hour and a half worth of feature-length documentary. You can check out the reviews of this at RottenTomatoes. I ran into Mr. Nygard during my shift but as I was wearing my volunteering hat, I didn’t get a chance to ask him any question of my own. I personally would like to know if he had learned anything from this journey, and what his real motivation was in making this. At first glance it seems that despite its thought-provoking appeal, it’d probably raise far more questions than answer… which makes me think that the tag line in the poster (every mystery of human existence… explained in one movie) is nothing more than wishful thinking.

After my shift, I checked out Secretariat, the ‘horse movie’ as everyone calls it, which was a rousing good fun. I don’t know much about the subject matter, but I really enjoyed it. The movie was preceded by a short movie Flourtown, about a couple who search for a reason to live after their boys die, and make a surprising discovery in their own lives as artists. It’s a really beautifully-filmed short, created by William Slichter who uses his background in Fine Arts in his storytelling. Check out the trailer:

Another volunteer shift beckons, so watch for my review of Secretariat and Fair Game hopefully tomorrow. Stay tuned!

First annual Twin Cities Film Fest kicks off tonight: 5 flicks I’m excited to see

The first ever Twin Cities Film Fest (TCFF) kicks off with a bang tonight with the critically-acclaimed film Waiting for “Superman” and an appearance from Academy Award®-winning director and producer Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth). The tickets are sold out for this, so it looks like it’s going to be a bustling and festive evening at the Mall of America! I’m scheduled to volunteer for a few hours, but hopefully I could get a glimpse of the film in between breaks. But if not, I might try catch it once it opens (exclusively) at the Landmark Uptown theatre starting Friday, October 1.

I’m hoping to see at least 4-5 films during the festival, but we’ll see if that’s possible given my work and volunteering schedule. For sure I’m going to see Nowhere Boy on Wednesday night. The movie chronicles John Lennon’s childhood, covering the time when he met Paul McCartney and how that leads to forming the Beatles. It boast a great British cast of Aaron Johnson (Kick-Ass) as Lennon, Kristin Scott Thomas as his aunt Mimi, Anne-Marie Duff and David Morrissey. Critics embrace Sam Taylor Wood’s directing debut, the film’s got 84% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes. The trailer definitely got me intrigued:

It’s playing Wednesday 9/29, 7:00pm | AMC Block E 15 (downtown Minneapolis). Tickets are still available at the film page on TCFF website.

After my shift on Friday night, I hope to catch Secretariat. It’s another movie based on a true story of the spectacular journey of the 1973 Triple Crown winner and what may be the greatest racehorse of all time. It stars Diane Lane, John Malkovich and James Cromwell. It looks like a good ‘ol rousing entertainment about triumphing against all odds. It’s playing Friday, 10/1, 7:00pm @ AMC Block E 15, which is one week ahead of the nationwide release date!

The other three I’m hoping to catch are:

The Two Escobars 9/29, 5:00pm | Theatres at Mall of America
When my soccer aficionado colleague Scot told me about the story I was intrigued.

Pablo Escobar was the richest, most powerful drug kingpin in the world, ruling the Medellin Cartel with an iron fist. Andrés Escobar was the biggest soccer star in Colombia. The two were not related, but their fates were inextricably–and fatally–intertwined.

Hollywood Reporter had some nice things to say about the documentary, saying that “…One doesn’t have to be a sports fan to respond to this true tale of soccer, politics, organized crime and murder” and a 8.9 IMDb user rating.

World’s Largest 9/29, 9:30pm & 10/2, 1:30pm | AMC Block E 15
I’m even more curious to see this after exec-director Jatin Setia said this was one of his favorite films he’s seen at the festival. Sounds like a whimsical and cheerful movie that’s guaranteed to put a smile on people’s faces.

Desperate for tourism, hundreds of small towns across the U.S.A. claim the “world’s largest” something from 15-foot fiberglass strawberries to 40-foot concrete pheasants. Odd, funny and sometimes beautiful, the statues stand as testaments to the uniqueness and importance – the largeness – that all people feel, and need to feel, about their communities and their own existence.

10/2, 7:00pm | AMC Block E 15
On closing night on Saturday, I might try to catch this one after my volunteer shift is done. This movie won’t be released nationwide until November 5, so it’s cool that TCFF got it a month in advance! Now please don’t confuse this with the Cindy Crawford crapfest of the same name. This one is a political-thriller based on the autobiography of real-life undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. According to, this is the only film from an American director in competition at Cannes, and the indie blog also has great things to say about director Doug Liman’s (Bourne Ultimatum) casting of Naomi Watts: “Watts is finely-tuned as Plame, a woman who tells lies for her country with ease but agonizes over speaking the truth for her own benefit.”

Now, I don’t always leap up to see this type of political thriller, nor am I the biggest Sean Penn fan (read: not really). But I like Naomi Watts, she is one darn good actress and the story sounds pretty intriguing. How accurate it really is to what actually happens I’ll never know, but hey, it sure makes for a compelling thriller and that is what I look for in this movie.

Check out other films offered @ TCFF, there bounds to be something that interest you. Look for my continued coverage of TCFF in the coming days!

Has anybody seen any of these films? If so, do share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Counting down to TCFF: Watch the films, meet the filmmakers

The Autumn Equinox has arrived for us in the USA and the rest of the northern hemisphere! Fall is my favorite season and this year there’s something else to be excited about Autumn here in Minnesota! In four days, Tuesday, September 28 will mark the debut of the annual TWIN CITIES FILM FEST, premiering with documentary Waiting for Superman, followed by Q&A with its director, Davis Guggenheim. Have you secured your ticket yet?

When I was at TIFF back in 2005, I got a chance to watch a couple of movies with the director in attendance: a Norse warrior adventure tale Beowulf & Grendel (Sturla Gunnarsson) and a quirky musical comedy Romance & Cigarettes (John Turturro). In fact, at the world premiere of Beowulf & Grendel, the entire cast were also in attendance (just a few rows behind me!), including my personal fave Gerard Butler. Good thing I didn’t realize it until after as I’d have a real trouble concentrating on the movie! 😀 It’s a really cool feeling to be able to watch a film knowing the people involved in making the film are watching it with you. Even better if you can actually ask questions about it afterward!

Well, Guggenheim isn’t the only filmmaker who will be attending the five-day festival. Check out the list below of who else will be in attendance for the premiere of their films:

  • Night Catches US
    Tanya Hamilton (Director) Confirmed with Q & A
  • Sin Retorno
    Guillermo Ivan (Director and Actor) Confirmed
  • Worlds Largest
    Amy Elliot (Director) Confirmed with Q & A
  • A Good Day to Die
    David Mueller and Lynn Salt (Directors) Confirmed with Q & A
  • Phasma Ex Machina
    Matt Osterman (Director) Confirmed with Q & A
  • Nature of Existence
    Roger Nygard (Director) Confirmed with Q & A
  • Man Made
    Vaughn Juarez (Director) Confirmed with Q & A
  • Channel News
    Jacob Kindberg (Director) Confirmed with Q & A
    Sarah Kindberg (Actor) Confirmed with Q & A
  • Fanny, Annie and Danny
    Chris Brown (Director) Intended with Q & A

Minnesota Shorts Directors Attending:

  • AS BREATH ON GLASS – Maria Bias (Screening with Channel News)
  • DINNER DATE – Paul Von Stoetzel (Screening with Fanny, Annie & Danny)
  • ESSENSE – Katie Mac (Screening with Night Catches Us)
  • FLOURTOWN – William Slichter  (Screening with Secretariat)
  • PER BIANCA – James Snapko (Screening with Nowhere Boy)
  • PHOTOS AND DRAWINGS – Jon Maichel Thomas (Screening with Conviction)
  • SOMEONE, SOMETHING – Matt Joyer  (Screening with World’s Largest)
  • THE ACTIVIST – Phillip Montgomery (Screening with Toxic Soup)

Check out the official website for descriptions of each of the film and get your tickets!

Upcoming Local Event: Twin Cities Film Fest Coming Sept. 28!

Happy Monday all! Hope your weekend was a good one. It’s been a hectic but fun one for me as I participated in two local events back to back yesterday. My hubby and a bunch of my friends did the annual St. Paul Classics Bike Tour (the new Lilydale loop was absolutely gorgeous!), followed by a hearty brunch buffet, and then off to a volunteer meeting for the first ever Twin Cities Film Fest with my pal Becky (a.k.a Prairiegirl).

I’ve only attended ONE film festival in my life, which was Toronto International Film Festival or TIFF for short about five years ago, but it left a big impression on me. I remember wishing I could be a part of an event like that, you know, as a volunteer or what not, but I don’t know why I never got around to until now. And the opportunity sort of presented itself early this Summer. I was part of a video shoot for a product launch at work, and the actor we happened to hire was none other than the festival’s executive director, Jatin Setia! My co-workers was the one who told me that he’s working on this event, knowing that I’m a movie blogger. So I emailed him that I’d be interested in blogging about and volunteering for the event and so here I am!

I’m so excited to be a part of this grassroots happening that the Minneapolis mayor called “… a [celebration] of cinema on a larger scale than previously seen in the region.” Another board of directors member, seasoned actor/producer/member Bill Cooper, gave us a spiel about the vision of the festival and said how this event has exceeded everyone’s expectations. They had wished for one studio film and they’ve got FIVE (i.e. the Sean Penn/Naomi Watts thriller Fair Game, the John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy), totaling 30+ features with an eclectic mix of studio and independent feature films and shorts. This is just exciting stuff, and I can’t agree more with what he said to Becky and I afterward: this city needs it! There have been other festivals in town, but these guys have big dreams, and they, as well as we avid MN moviegoers want to see it come true. And that is, in the years to come, we’ll be the festivals movie bloggers and watchers would be buzzing about the way they do Tribeca, Sundance, TIFF, etc. Didn’t I mention they have big dreams? 🙂 But hey, why not, as a wise man once says, “we are limited, not by our abilities, but by our vision,” TIFF wasn’t THIS big 34 years ago when it first premiered. In fact, according to this site, “TIFF had a setback in its first year when Hollywood studios decided to withdraw their contributions, apparently considering the Toronto audience base too parochial.”

So, I will be blogging more about TCFF up until and during the film festival, in the meantime, please peruse the official site for the films featured in the 5-day event. Stay tuned for more!

Btw, has any of you have had experience covering for or being a part of a local film festival?